Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Strava - Part 2 - Setup and Security

In my last post I mentioned some setup and security things that I do.

In general I don't worry too much about security, but I thought as I run more and people knowing exactly where I live probably wouldn't be the best thing in the world.

Under Settings -> Privacy you can set up a "hidden location" for both your office and your home.  This really just moves the start of your run out about half a mile from your house.  Nothing extensive but I guess better than nothing.

One sure way if you worry about this, and I would suggest some folks doing this is change the enhanced privacy mode to ON, within this same screen.  You can approve your followers and only approved people can see and download your activities.  Especially as you start to meet people on the trail and within clubs.

I would also suggest if you are uncomfortable with people knowing your habits to some degree (you always run at 6am from x parking lot), then you should change your setting to have people "request to follow".  That way you can pre-screen to some degree.

Now lets move on to a few more fun items;

Gear - Make sure you setup your shoes and your bikes here, you can retire them later but as you start going through shoes it sure does help to keep track of all of your gear and how many miles you have on them.  I wish I had started this earlier, because I have this pair of road shoes I have tried to replace but any new ones, just don't feel the same - damn you Nike for updating models all the time!

Email Notifications - so if you signed up and have joined any clubs, you probably start getting a few too many emails from strava, this is a great place to slow those down.  I used to like getting a daily digest, but I follow a few too many folks that I don't read it now :(

My Performance - again another place you should take a few minutes to setup as it helps all of the other data screens - your Max HR you can just calculate based off of your age.  There was a great article by Ann Trason in Ultrarunner Magazine - Ask Ann: Heart Rate Homework about getting your max heart rate.  Worth a read.
Pace Zones are a bit different and they kinda bug me - but it is what it is.  I ran a pretty good (for me) half marathon - a 1:46:00, so when it shows my pace information 99% of the time I am in endurance, and I guess that is what I am doing when I am in the hills trotting up the hill.  I just don't find that as useful.

Under my profile you can also setup your "social connections" Facebook, Twitter, Intstagram, etc..., I don't do a lot of sharing unless it is a race really that some folks are watching, but it is nice to be able to share.  The best one here is Instagram - Half the fun of our trail running is the view sometimes!  Going for a run in the hills and tossing it out on Instagram (create an account if you don't have one - it is free), it will automatically look for pictures taken during your activity and a 45 minute window.  If you are out in the middle of no place with no cell coverage, you can take pictures and just let them fail and have a few queue'd up when you do get to cell coverage.  Here is Strava's blog post on it -  One other note - you can disassociate a picture from an activity also - I noticed I had a picture of my daughter and I out for a walk because it was within the upload window you just click the button "unlink" the picture.

I think I hit all the high points - really nothing too earth shattering, just wanted to encourage more people to use it.  I think I will hit on some of the "hidden" features or just not well used features of Strava next.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tahoe 200 - Crewing and Pacing - Interesting Experience

I will publish this after John publishes his...

I don't remember how I volunteered to crew and pace John, but it was on some run at some point this past year.  We were probably running along and he said he was going to sign up and I said I would love to crew him and help pace a section or two.  He has been so incredibly helpful in getting me into this sport and keeping me going.  Why not!  A few days at Tahoe crewing, then pace him in for a bit, what could go wrong...

Excited to use my new whiteboard markers
After John finished his excellent run at the Hardrock 100 (his race report), we started talking about this in earnest.  Not really knowing what a crew chief, yes I had been promoted by this point, was to do.  I started looking at the maps and the runners manual.  Candice picked CalTopo for the maps, and she broke it up into aid stations and segments between all color coded.  Here is the map, it really helps visualize the course as a whole.  I was able to work with the creator of the site to get a larger 18x24 inch size that I had printed at Kinko's that we could use white board markers on.  It was fun to mark up at breakfast a few weeks before the race and decide when and where pacers were going to meet up and how we would coordinate some items.

Since we had a few pacers lined up at different times, I thought the best way to get folks to where they needed to be was to leap frog a bit.  They would park their car where they would finish pacing and I would meet them and drive them to the start of where they were pacing (on paper that looks good :) ).  After a bit of coordinating schedules and some other people to act as possible back up folks, we had our plan of attack.  John had also created a pacer chart so we had some idea of when he was going to be going through our pacing aid stations.  His times to hit the aid stations were labeled as Great, Good, and Oh Well.

John and I also went out to scout the course a bit.  We went to Lyons Creek Trail near Kyburz.  We ran up past Wrights Lake and then tested out John's handheld GPS.  The GPS worked out great, so good I actually bought one - a refurbished Garmin from Cabelas - the eTrex 20, I am sure glad I had it!  The course was pretty rugged!  A lot of places where even good marking might get you a bit turned around especially those coming through at night.  I heard the markings were great and I don't know how many people got off course but I think remarkably few for such a huge undertaking!

Cowboy down
Fast forward a bit I wanted to come up Thursday so I could attend the course overview meeting and then the mandatory briefing.

A picture of him taking a selfie
The course meeting was interesting, finding out John was going to be going 15 to 18 miles at a time without an aid station and sometimes no streams to pull water out of.  It was going to be rough.  I don't know if John was as concerned about this as I was (he is the one nodding off in the briefing) :)

We got to sleep on time and slept in a bit since the start time wasn't going to be till 10am.  John had already dropped off his drop bags, I still have a hard time thinking about how he put those together.  He uses Victory drop bags - awesome set of bags he had an inventory list on the front of each bag that he referred to each time I saw him using it.  I need to pick up a few of these for my next ultra I think I am still partial to my pink barbie backpack because it sure is easy to find.  That would be my only suggestion for the Victory drop bags - different colors possibly.

Starting was pretty standard at an ultra - not the crowds of thousands but a great high energy and everyone ready to get started.  Since the start was up a ski slope (Homewood Resort), great place and very kind to host this event!  Everyone was laughing about running up the hill at the start of a 202 mile event.  Well there was at least one person  that did run up that first hill.  You will have to read through John's report on what happened to him.

Afterward Sean (he was pacing another runner) and I hiked the hill - it was no joke even at a good hiking pace :)  Pretty view of the lake and seeing the enormity of the task John was undertaking was inspiring.  Here is a quick video I made from the shore at Tahoe City.

I knew I wouldn't see him until 60 miles in so I went back to Tahoe City to try to get some rest and coordinate with the pacers (Peter Rabover, Karl Schnaitter, and Jeremy Johnson).  I was going to start detailing out my experience coordinating all of this "leap frogging", but suffice to say I think I drove about 9 to 10 hours trying to get people in the right spots then tried to get some sleep so I could get pick him up to start pacing early Sunday morning.  I wish I would have been able to grab more shut eye, it just didn't work out that way.

Some notable events before I started pacing;

Missing Peter by minutes at Armstrong before I had to meet John for his best case time which he nailed at Sierra at Tahoe.  He came in looking strong and Peter was able to get a ride down to Big Meadow to pace him from 80 to 90, so that worked out fine.  Peter did miss out on seeing a bear cub though.

Getting a call from John before he hit Tunnel Creek aid station saying he was lost and Jeremy I think trying to tell him that they were still on course.  I then had to call Amy and tell her.  I went to Tunnel Creek to see if I could catch him but they had just left 5 min before, so I decided to just go to Martis Peak aid station and try to sleep in the car.

Once they arrived John wanted to get an hour of sleep and then we would move out and I would pace him for the last 50 or so "Candice Miles" as we came to discuss our mileage between aid stations.  I know she measured it out with some extra sensitive GPS equipment, but whew it just seemed like we were a tad longer between stations.

I will break these thoughts up a bit between aid stations;

Martis Peak to Tahoe City - about 20 miles
This was a good section - we moved pretty well jogging the flats and downhills I think for the most part, we ran into some people that got a good picture of John running I hope but then they let us know that Ewan (the eventual winner) was moving great and had just checked in and out of Martis.  So we picked up the pace.  Markings were great we were moving in daylight, it was everything I had hoped pacing would be...  I was double checking my GPS but we saw a course marker when it made sense to see one.  We ran out of water and nutrition on this section though not long before we eventually came into Tahoe City and Jeremy was there to help out, I ran into the store there and got us a couple of water bottles because it was warm and we knew the next section could be awhile.  So it would be nice to have something other than our two bottles up front. I also looked to get a ping from some crew about when Ewan would enter and leave the aid station.

Tahoe City to Rideout - about 19 miles 
This section was a bit of everything - I used a crosswalk for the first time in an ultra.  We ran down a bike path, and then eventually came on the TRT again.  This section is kind of a blur, we knew Ewan was behind us, but we had kept moving good.  We were finally able to grab a cell signal so I sat down and looked at the times.  Sure enough we found out that Ewan was still hot on our tail.  We started up this long extended climb and got to the top, John said he saw Ewan and his pacer below and then all of a sudden they caught up and were blowing by us.  I felt destroyed that we couldn't keep them off our tail, but I felt like I was pushing John as hard as I could.  We eventually made it into Rideout and the promised last leg of this adventure.  

Rideout to Finish - about 16 miles
Rideout aid station was fun because Animal Athletics sponsored it, it was great to meet Yassine Diboun and his crew there.  This section was rough!!!  We got in about 6 miles of fairly flat terrain then it just started going up and it was these silly jeep trails that would go up then flatten and up and flatten again.  Unfortunately we weren't moving too fast, John's feet were hurting a bit and you can read his description of this part of the run but it was brutal for him.  This is when Victor Ballesteros passed us, he was moving great and I was very regretful that we didn't put John's poles in his pack.  Victor was super gracious in passing but it was still tough.  The last I knew though Sammy was just 15 minutes behind Victor at Tahoe City, so I was extremely worried that he might be off the podium soon.  We crested this peak finally and had to walk along the top the wind was blowing very hard and having the "mandatory kit" was good.  John used a few items and wrapped the mylar space blanket around his waist (he says kimono style, I should have gotten a picture because he was wearing a dress now :) ).  We got into a slight argument on our way down he thought I was cutting the course I kept pointing to the GPS saying we are on track and we eventually came across a flag.  I sure am glad we had the GPS, because while it was well marked you could easily space out at night.  John was also trying to convince me that he would feel better after laying down for a few minutes.  I was still worried about Sammy catching us - and I wasn't sure how he would do if he stopped and then we still had 4 miles left to go...  I think that might be a rough go of it getting moving again.  

We eventually made it down and could see the finish and of course, the course has a few switchbacks, he made it.  I broke off and ran down so I could get a picture or two of him finishing. 

To sum all of this up - I had initially told my wife, that after seeing John go through this I would never want to do this.  I think time has passed and now I am really excited to toss my name in the hat maybe not next year but soon!  John was great, it was an extremely hard race but he raced it.  I think he might do a few things differently next time.  I am excited to see him try this again.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Strava - Part 1 - What and Why?

Executive Summary: Strava is great for social networking in running, very easy to use and has an iPhone app.  Get out there and create an account then be friends with me :)

In my post yesterday - Veloviewer Usage got me to wonder how many are using Strava  in general and what it is good for, I thought I would share my own experience with it and why / how I started using it.

When I first started running I used Nike Plus because I had some friends and family on it and also it worked on my iPhone, etc...  It did some nice summarizing of data but nothing too impressive.  It did speak a bit to my competitive nature by showing a leader board on miles per week / month.

After the first few months I started playing around with a lot of different tools and that caused me to use an app on my cell called iSmoothRun  (great app and I would still use it but I invested in a Garmin) - it was able to record the run and then upload to all different services.  I used that and signed up for Strava.

As most of you that use Strava know, it is super easy to get sucked into the segments (I will go through that stuff in a bit), and leader boards on a weekly basis.  I think that is around the same time as I met the guy that holds then (May 2013) and still holds most of the Quicksilver KoMs. Now enough history - I started doing my distance running - maybe not very fast but at least further with the help of John and all the friends I have met through Quicksilver Running Club or on Strava.

Why should you get on Strava?  Even if you aren't planning on running long distances or fast, it is motivating to be able to find some routes that you run often and notice the segments that are on your route and work on improving your rankings.  Segments are just like they sound, they are portions of your overall run that have their own leaderboard.  And that drives some competition just internally I think it is neat to go back to run some segments hard and try to climb the leaderboard (knowing at least full well for me I won't get the top place but I can improve at the very least).  (They have hiking / biking / walking / workout / etc... as well)

Here is an example of a run.

A couple of things you can see here obviously - The run overall - Distance / "Moving time" / Pace / Suffer Score (heart rate calculations - I didn't feel like it was that extreme)  

Then under it is elevation (amount of climb) / calculated calorie expenditure / elapsed time (note the 8 min gap - I got lost and had to look at a map on my phone :) ).

You can see the map and the "splits (just mile increments)" and the elevation profile below (seeing where I stopped for a bit to look at the trail markers first time I ran there)..

I have also linked my instagram account to my run so it will pick up any pictures I take and their location (see the little picture on the map).  You can also "kudo" people on their runs as well as comment on them.  Great for a social drive by.

On the next couple of screens (you can click the items under overview on the left hand side);
  • Pace Analysis - look of the elevation profile and fastest and slowest times you did.
  • Pace Distribution- See how much time you spent in various zones based on your top speed - In my opinion less useful since my fastest I used a half marathon on the road, this has nothing to do with how fast I hit the trails.
  • Heart Rate - How much time you spent in various zones that you see some of the more serious runners use (e.g. Zone 2 or z2 is tempo pace / z5 is Anaerobic).

I think the fun part is the segments though;

You will see a list of the segments and you can mouse over them to see which segment is which on your run (it will highlight them blue and also show on the elevation profile to the right).  If you click on them they will show a quick view of the leaderboard and where you stand on it;

As you can see above - I am currently 20 out of 52 people that have run that segment and I would have to run it over 8 minutes faster to get the Course Record (CR) (that isn't happening).  If you start clicking the buttons under you can see the whole leaderboard and your efforts (a good example here is I have done quicksilver now for over a year some of those segments I have attempted 30 or 40 times).  You can compare you against others I will show below because this is a relatively new feature that shows in real time if you both started that segment, graphically where would you be as that run played out.  As you can see I stopped it about 13 minutes into the run and the was 3:43 ahead of me on the map and going about 2 minutes a mile faster than I was...  (sigh)

So much to explore in this tool let alone Veloviewer.  My bottom line as I finish showing this and I will write something up more about joining a club or making friends, also adding some level of security (home zone / locked profile), is just sign up and start using it.  They have a great iPhone app that my friend Scott Dunlap reviewed recently here, and you can download all your runs if you ever want to put them into some other running ecosystem.  Here is my profile so you can add me as a friend as well - Jeff's Strava Profile.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Veloviewer Usage

As I was putting up my new blog, I was linking to everything that I have been using lately.  Veloviewer is one thing that I don't think a lot of people use, while they may use Strava, Veloviewer for me even though I haven't been running for very long sure keeps me excited about how my training is going.

I am going to pull a few descriptions from their website with some of my own commentary (from the perspective a newbie runner);

First things first go to your screen should show something along these lines;

Pretty self explanatory now - click the button that says "Connect with STRAVA" - it may take you to another screen within Strava to allow the connection.  Just say yes.

You will then come to a page to import all of your activities into the veloviewer database;

Click the button to "get everything" (this may take a long time depending on how many it needs to grab)

Now you can start exploring.

I would rather not screenshot every page but just give you an idea of all of the different tabs - you can see in the previous picture there are tabs along the top;

  • Summary - as it says a real good summary of what you have been doing along with some graphs.  I mostly run but I have a few rides that skew the graphs a bit so I will just click on runs that gives me a great year over year view of my progress.  On the graphs you can click buttons as well that give you elevation or distance.  That is what really made my day - I only have about 2.5 years of data so far and it is interesting and easy to see when I made my transition from running on the roads to running on the trails my elevation starts to go through the roof, this year alone I have already exceeded all of my climb from last year :) So much to explore on just the summary page, I would just suggest you look around.
  • Challenges - kinda neat but just a summary screen of all of the challenges you signed up for in Strava and where you are on those.
  • Activities - If you just want to see runs or rides you can click the pull down next to config and select either.  Some Filters that are interesting that are predefined - Another neat item is the map and chart buttons on the side. You will notice the button on the bottom you can export this to CSV (Comma-Separated Values) so you can easily import into any spreadsheet application.
  • Segments - Now this is Strava's bread and butter - so so neat, you really just have to play around here because you can see your position then you can also see how far you are behind the leader (maybe find some segments to go out and snipe :) ).  A lot of ways to sort and explore, this is where I play around the most I think.
  • Wheel - Just another visual way to look at your activities and climbs! Fun to click on different parts of the wheel.
  • Signature Image - I have played around here but never needed a signature so just something for you that might want to show off that way :)
  • Rivals - If you run with someone a lot and do the same segments, they will show up as a rival.  and you can view their data. Some of these people I will never beat but I have one or two of the CR's and that makes me happy enough :)

  • Update - Now we are full circle - this is the same screen that you loaded all of your runs.  I go in and update about once a week maybe once ever couple of weeks when I have a long conference call and can just spend some time looking at the data figuring out my next run :)

That is it - just a fun view of Strava for those of you that use it, this makes it even more useful.  He has a few other tools out there.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Time to get serious

Well I just finished helping my friend / ultra mentor finish his run around Lake Tahoe - the Tahoe 200. I don't know now if I helped or hurt his chances. He was in a great position but then I may have pushed him to keep going when an hours worth of rest might have helped him reset and hold his position better. I keep second guessing my strategy and I am sure he is as well.

What does this have to do with the title of this post. Well nothing really. Just while I was working with him on this run / hike for 20 hours or so, I had some time to think about my own running work to date. Pretty unimpressive really. I have done pretty well in running with how fast I have jumped to longer distances, but all in all I am below average in speed and endurance. I need to get serious.  

In talking to him while we were hiking up some crazy hills, I mentioned that I have some goals. He told me that for those goals, I would need to loose this extra weight. I have added some since Bryce and the injury. Even with Bryce I should have been a few pounds lighter. 

I think another thing that will help is adding to this blog on a regular basis. My running progress or setbacks. I also buy and use enough items that I could review things from my point of view. I might also do some fun reviews about random things like movies, gadgets and miscellaneous things. 

That is all. More to come hopefully :)